Blog: Here's what Tom says about that!

Isaac T. Hopper: A True Life

Posted May 28th, 2008 by

One of the pleasures of traveling about the United States to speak with people about Inheriting the Trade is, well, the people. On the one hand I’ve met several new relatives that I’ve never heard of before (4th, 6th, 9th cousins and the list goes on). On the other hand I’m meeting people with a strong interest in history and in addressing the legacy of slavery. In both cases I’m learning more about history, Cuba, Ghana, the United States, and the DeWolf family in particular than I learned while participating in our family journey or in my research to write my book.

For example, when my cousin James Perry and I attended a symposium on the 200th anniversary of the end of the U.S. slave trade at Boston University in April, I met George Fullerton. George and I had a bite to eat together prior to the start of the symposium where he showed me a newspaper he brought along–The Charleston Courier–from July 1807. In it is an advertisement for the sale of one hundred and six Prime Windward Coast Slaves by a company I recognized immediately: Christian & D’Wolf. It was haunting to see this hard evidence of my distant relative’s involvement in the slave trade just six months prior to its being outlawed in this country.

George later told me about a conversation he had with a friend of his about the intersection of the DeWolf and Hopper families. In my book I mention William DeWolf Hopper. He played Paul Drake on the Perry Mason television series and is a distant relative. His grandmother was Rosalie DeWolf Hopper; granddaughter of U.S. Senator James DeWolf, the most successful slave-trader in the family.

Here’s what I didn’t know. Rosalie’s husband was John Hopper, the son of Isaac T. Hopper. Isaac Hopper was once the treasurer of the American Anti-Slavery Society. As a teen–and a Quaker–he worked in the Underground Railroad in the late 1700s. Isaac, according to George, was one of the most respected men within the anti-slavery movement. His son John was also an active abolitionist whose brother married the daughter of James and Lucretia Mott. So what’s John Hopper doing marrying into the DeWolf family back then is the first question that pops into my mind.

George sent me a copy of the book Isaac T. Hopper: A True Life, written by Lydia Maria Child (published in 1853), who lived with the Hoppers while she was in New York editing the National Slavery Standard. I look forward to reading it and learning more about the Hoppers, the Underground Railroad and the abolition movement.

The web is exceedingly complex and the journey continues…

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Copyright 2012 by Thomas Norman DeWolf | Website: James DeW. Perry